Step back in time to an era of adventure and romance, in a world where opulent palaces, mysterious temples, and luxurious colonial mansions combine to create an atmosphere of incomparable extravagance.
Experience a golden age of travel, during a time when celebrities, diplomats and royalty mingled in the magnificent chandeliered ballrooms of the grand hotels of the Far East. From the elegant gatherings of aristocratic ladies in the upper echelons of 19th century colonial society, through the flamboyant cocktail parties of the “Roaring Twenties”, and finally to the turmoil of war and revolution in the postcolonial era that almost threatened to destroy them, these hotels have seen it all.
For the sophisticated traveller, interested in architecture and history, staying at one of the most famous heritage hotels in Indochina is almost like stepping into a time machine, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the spirit of a bygone age. To set the mood for your adventure into the past, we have selected three of the best heritage hotels, from three of the most intriguing destinations in Indochina: Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos.
The Strand, Myanmar
The Strand represents the very essence of what it means to be a heritage hotel. Founded in 1901, it was widely considered the most exclusive hotel in the British Empire. This grand construction has survived many decades of turmoil and was briefly used to house Japanese troops during their occupation of Burma, but fell into disrepair after independence. The Strand underwent extensive renovations in 1993, but still retains many original features and the building itself has remained completely unchanged, with no additional wings or exterior architectural features being added. This is the ideal hotel for travellers who want to experience an authentic heritage hotel, as it would have appeared during its glory days.
The Strand now stands as a relic of British Burma. Centrally located just a short distance from the golden spires of the Shwedagon Pagoda and the fascinating Bogyoke Aung San Market, brimming with antiques, jewellery and handicraft shops, as well as an abundance of street food and colourful stalls selling exotic fruits. It is also highly recommended to visit the lesser-known Botataung Pagoda, just a short walk from the hotel, which is said to house the sacred hair of Guatama Buddha himself.
The Metropole, Vietnam
Known as the “Paris of the East”, Hanoi has a reputation as one of the most romantic cities in former Southeast Asia. Along with the nearby Hanoi Opera House, which was actually modelled after the Palais Garnier in Paris, the Metropole has been the focus point of high culture in Hanoi since the French colonial period. Throughout the years, the Metropole has received famous guests from all over the world, from Charlie Chaplin to Angelina Jolie. During the Vietnam War, a bomb shelter was constructed in the basement to protect guests during American air raids. Jane Fonda also stayed here during her controversial visit to North Vietnam in the 1960’s.
While this legendary hotel offers perfect tranquillity and relaxation within its walls, the city outside is teeming with life, which can be enjoyed from the sidelines at the famous La Terrasse restaurant, or from the comfort of a “cyclo” rickshaw on the busy streets of the vibrant French Quarter. To truly experience the atmosphere of this historic area of Hanoi, it is warmly recommended to attend a concert at the Hanoi Opera House and have dinner at the legendary Hanoi Press Club.
Sofitel Luang Prabang, Laos
The Sofitel Luang Prabang provides guests with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the crème-de-la-crème of colonial era Luang Prabang. Housed in the French Governor’s Mansion, complete with exquisite botanical gardens surrounded by fortified walls and watchtowers, this grandiose residence is the incarnation of exclusivity and French architectural elegance. The unique combination of Laotian and French styles, as well as the natural beauty of Laos, creates a truly spell-binding ambiance. Dinner is served under a luxurious chandeliered tent or in a candle-lit garden under the stars.
Luang Prabang is a uniquely well-preserved and beautiful historic city, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Sofitel Luang Prabang is located in close proximity to the Wat Xieng Thong monastery as well as the Royal Palace, which now functions as a museum. To get the most out of your stay, take a short drive out to the stunning Kuang Si Waterfall where you can bathe in the clear turquoise pools, surrounded by emerald-green jungle.
We hope you enjoyed this short introduction to some of the best heritage hotels in Indochina. If you are interested in booking any of the hotels or activities mentioned in this article, do not hesitate to contact us today or visit our website for more information.